The Australian Christian Lobby has written to the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, urging her to exert diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to free Christian mother, Asia Bibi, who has been on death row since 2010.
ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton has suggested Australia’s $47 million in overseas aid to Pakistan should be suspended until Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law, under which Bibi was condemned, is repealed or amended.
Asia Bibi was condemned to death after being convicted of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad because she drank from a water well that was reserved for Muslims only.
She was brutally raped and beaten for her ‘crime’ and her alleged perpetrators were never prosecuted.
“Australia has a moral obligation to explore what further efforts and representations might be made to secure Asia Bibi’s release. Suspending the $47 million aid budget to Pakistan until the Blasphemy Law is repealed or amended is one avenue that should be considered,” Mr Shelton said.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and our Government must do everything it can to pressure the Pakistani government to meet its international human rights obligations,” Mr Shelton said.
“As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Pakistan has an obligation to provide religious freedom to its citizens.”
The Pakistani judiciary is under tremendous domestic pressure to reject her appeal.
The mother of five was to appeal before Pakistan’s Supreme Court in early October against her death sentence.
On day one of the appeal, one of judges of the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, sighting a conflict of interest thereby delaying the hearing indefinitely. The judge has since resigned.
In March 2015, the Pakistani Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was shot dead after calling for the blasphemy laws to be scrapped.
“While Australians are familiar with Islamist terrorists killing people for allegedly blaspheming Mohammad, most would be surprised to know the Pakistani Government has laws which condemn people to death for the same thing,” Mr Shelton said.
“We thank the Members of Parliament, including Senator Eric Abetz, Andrew Hastie and Michael Sukkar for raising in Parliament the plight of Asia Bibi and other Christians like her.
“We support calls made by the British Pakistani Christian Association chairman, Wilson Chowdhry, which he made during his recent Australian visit, for the Federal Government to include 100 places for persecuted Pakistani Christians in Australia’s annual humanitarian intake.”